Deng Xiaoping

Speech Greeting the Fourth Congress of Chinese Writers and Artists


Published: October 30, 1979
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


Delegates and Comrades,

Today, delegates representing our writers, dramatists, artists, musicians, performing artists, motion picture personnel and other workers in literature and art are gathered here to sum up their basic experience over the past 30 years and to discuss ways of building on their successes, overcoming shortcomings and thus making literature and art flourish in the new historical period. This is a happy and historic occasion and on behalf of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council, I am pleased to greet you warmly.

Taking part in this congress are veteran writers and artists who participated in the new cultural movement at the time of the May 4th Movement [1919], others who contributed to the cause of the people’s liberation during later revolutionary periods, others who grew up after the founding of the People’s Republic [1949], and still others who emerged in the struggle against Lin Biao and the Gang of Four. Also present are writers and artists from among our compatriots in Taiwan, Xianggang (Hongkong) and Aomen (Macao). This congress reflects the unprecedented unity of writers and artists throughout the country.

In the 17 years before the Cultural Revolution, our line in literature and art was in the main correct and there were remarkable achievements. The allegation that our literature and art were then under the “dictatorship by the proponents of a sinister line” was nothing but slander on the part of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four. During the 10 years when they ran riot, many outstanding works were proscribed, and many writers and artists framed and persecuted. A great number of our comrades and friends in literary and art circles resisted or fought against Lin Biao and the Gang with dignity and honour. Our writers and artists made admirable, lasting contributions in the struggle of the Party and the people to overthrow Lin Biao and the Gang. I salute them all.

Since the Gang was smashed, the Party’s policy concerning intellectuals has been implemented in literary and art circles under the guidance of the Central Committee of the Party. A great many literary and art works that were popular in the past are once more available to the public. Writers and artists, with their minds at ease, are again enthusiastic and creative. In the few years since the criticism of the crimes and absurdities of Lin Biao and the Gang, many excellent novels, poems, plays, films, works of balladry, reportage pieces, musical compositions, dances, photographs and works of fine art have been produced. They have helped to break the mental shackles imposed by Lin Biao and the Gang and to eliminate their pernicious influence. They have helped to emancipate people’s thinking , stimulate their enthusiasm and inspire them to march towards the goal of the four modernizations with one heart and one mind. Looking back over the last three years, I think that our writers and artists, like workers in other fields, have scored considerable achievements. They should enjoy the respect, trust and love of our Party and people. Through the ordeal of struggle, by and large our writers and artists have proved good, and the Party and people rejoice in this.

Delegates and Comrades,

Our country has entered a new period, a period of socialist modernization. Alongside the expansion of our productive forces, we should also reform and improve our socialist economic and political structures, build a highly-developed socialist democracy and perfect the socialist legal system. While working for a socialist civilization which is materially advanced, we should build one which is culturally and ideologically advanced by raising the scientific and cultural level of the whole nation and promoting a rich and diversified cultural life inspired by high ideals.

The overriding nationwide task for a considerable time to come will be to work single-mindedly for the four modernizations. This is a great enterprise which will determine our country’s destiny for generations to come. The masses and cadres in all fields of endeavour should promote the emancipation of the mind, foster stability and unity, support the reunification of the motherland, and strive for the four modernizations. The basic standard for judging all our work is whether it helps or hinders our effort to modernize. The writers and artists, together with the educators, theorists, journalists, political workers and other comrades concerned, should carry out a protracted and effective struggle in the ideological sphere against all ideas and habits that obstruct the four modernizations. They should criticize the ideology of the exploiting classes and the conservative, narrow-minded mentality characteristic of small producers, criticize anarchism and ultra-individualism, and overcome bureaucracy. They should revive and carry forward the revolutionary traditions of our Party and people, cultivate fine morals and customs, and contribute to the building of a socialist civilization with a high cultural and ideological level.

In the pursuit of this noble cause, writers and artists find broad prospects opening before them. They are assuming important tasks, which they alone can perform, in order to meet the people’s varied cultural needs, help bring up a new socialist generation, and raise the ideological, cultural and moral levels of our society.

Our literature and art belong to the people. Our people are hardworking, brave, indomitable and resourceful, and full of ideals. They love the motherland and socialism. They have the interests of the whole nation at heart and their sense of discipline is strong. For thousands of years, and especially in the half century since the May 4th Movement, they have struggled arduously and confidently, overcoming all obstacles in their way and writing many brilliant chapters in our annals. No enemy, however strong, has subdued them and no difficulties, however great, have stopped their advance. Our literary and artistic creations must give expression to our people’s outstanding qualities and celebrate their triumphs in revolution, in construction and in struggles against all kinds of enemies and hardships.

Our writers and artists should try harder to portray and help foster the new socialist man and achieve greater successes in doing so. We must portray the new features of the pioneers in the modernization drive, their revolutionary ideals and scientific approach, their lofty sentiments and creative ability, and their broad and realistic vision. Through images of this new man, we must stimulate the enthusiasm of the masses for socialism and inspire their creative activities, which are of historic significance in the pursuit of the four modernizations.

Our socialist writers and artists should create vivid, inspiring flesh-and-blood characters. Through them they should truthfully depict our rich social life and the inner qualities of our people as shown in their social relations, and give expression to the trend of historical development and to the demands of our progressive era. They should endeavour to educate the people in socialist ideology and imbue them with the drive and spirit necessary to build national strength and prosperity.

China has a long history, a vast territory, and a huge population. Our people are of many nationalities and of different professions, ages, experience and educational levels, and they have varied customs and cultural traditions and varied preferences in literature and art. All creative works — whether epic or cameo, serious or humorous, lyrical or philosophical — should have their place in our garden of literature and art, so long as they help to educate and enlighten the people while providing them with entertainment and aesthetic pleasure. The deeds of heroes, the labour, struggles, joys and sorrows, partings and reunions of ordinary people, and the life of our contemporaries and of our predecessors — all these should be depicted in our works of literature and art. We should draw on and learn from all that is progressive and advanced in the literature, art and performing arts of old China, and of other countries as well.

We must adhere to the principle put forward by Comrade Mao Zedong — that literature and art should serve the broadest masses and, first of all, the workers, peasants and soldiers. We must always uphold the principles of “letting a hundred flowers bloom”, “weeding through the old to bring forth the new” and “making the past serve the present and foreign things serve China”. We should encourage the unhampered development of different forms and styles in literature and art, as well as the free discussion of theories of literature and art among exponents of different views and schools of thought. Lenin once said that in literature “greater scope must undoubtedly be allowed for personal initiative, individual inclination, thought and fantasy, form and content”. With the four modernizations as our common objective, the road before literature and art should become broader and broader. Guided by the correct principles for creative work, writers and artists should deal with an ever wider range of themes, increasingly vary their means of expression, and dare to blaze new trails. We must guard against or overcome the tendency to be formulistic and abstract, which produces monotonous, stiff, mechanical and stereotyped works.

Writers and artists who are responsible to the people should always keep their faces turned towards the masses and constantly improve their skills, doing their best to avoid slipshod work, seriously considering the likely impact of their works on society and trying to provide the people with the best mental nourishment. Lin Biao and the Gang of Four corrupted people’s minds and poisoned the social atmosphere with reactionary and decadent exploiting-class ideology. Our revolutionary traditions and fine customs were seriously undermined as a result. Our writers and artists should use their creative works to broaden the people’s mental horizons, and continue to fight resolutely against the pernicious influence of Lin Biao and the Gang. They should remain clear-headed when confronted by the proponents of erroneous tendencies, whether from the “Left” or from the Right, who are always attempting by one way or another to create disturbances and sabotage stability and unity, against the interests and wishes of the overwhelming majority of the people. Through literary and artistic creation and in close co-ordination with other ideological workers, they should help to raise the people’s consciousness, make them understand the harmfulness of these erroneous tendencies and arouse strong public opinion against them, so that all society will unite to condemn and oppose them.

Writers and artists should conscientiously study Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought so as to enhance their own ability to understand and analyse life and to see through appearances to the essence. We hope that more and more comrades in their ranks will become real “engineers of the human soul”. In order to educate the people, one must first be educated himself; in order to give nourishment to the people, one must first absorb nourishment himself. And who is to educate and nourish our writers and artists? According to Marxism, the answer can only be: the people. It is the people who nurture our writers and artists. The creative life of all progressive writers and artists is rooted in their intimate ties with the people. Creativity withers when these ties are forgotten, neglected or severed. The people need art, but art needs the people even more. Writers and artists should consciously draw source material, themes, plots, language and poetic and artistic inspiration from the life of the people and be nourished by the dynamic spirit of the people, who make history. Fundamentally, this is the road which our socialist literature and art must take if it is to flourish. We believe that our writers and artists will march forward along this road steadily and unswervingly.

Writers and artists also need to constantly improve their professional skills. They should earnestly study, assimilate and expand upon all that is best in the literary and artistic techniques of every land and every age and perfect art forms with the distinctive features of our own nation and our own time. Only those writers and artists who defy difficulties, who study and practise diligently, and who dare to explore new ground can scale the artistic heights.

We sincerely hope that our writers and artists will unite more closely and expand their ranks. Whether professional or amateur, all socialist and patriotic writers and artists and all those who support the reunification of our motherland should try harder to help and learn from each other and to concentrate their energies on literary and artistic creation, study and criticism. It is for the people to judge the ideological and artistic value of a work. Listening with an open mind to criticism from different quarters and accepting useful advice are the key to constant progress and improvement. In literary and art circles we should encourage comradely, friendly discussions in which facts are presented and things are reasoned out. Such discussions should take place between creators who belong to different schools or work in different forms, between creators and critics, and between creators and their audiences. In the process, both criticism and counter-criticism should be permitted, the truth should be upheld and mistakes corrected.

Writers and artists of the older generation bear an important responsibility for discovering and training young people of talent. Our young writers and artists are vigorous and perceptive and in them lies the future of our literature and art. We should help them eagerly and also make strict demands on them, so that they will not become divorced from life but will make steady progress both ideologically and in their art. As for the middle-aged generation, they are the mainstay of our literary and art work, and we should make it possible for them to contribute all they can.

Special stress must be laid on the training of talented writers and artists. For a country as big as ours, with a population of over 900 million, we really have too few who are outstanding. This is quite out of keeping with the demands of our times. Through improved ideological and administrative work, we should create the necessary conditions for persons of outstanding talent to emerge and mature.

Party committees at all levels should give good leadership to literary and art work. Leadership doesn’t mean handing out administrative orders and demanding that literature and art serve immediate, short-range political goals. It means understanding the special characteristics of literature and art and the laws of their development and creating conditions for them to flourish. That is, it means creating conditions that help writers and artists to improve their skills and to produce fine works and performances truly worthy of our great people and era. At present, it is particularly important to help writers and artists to continue emancipating their minds, to break the mental shackles fastened on them by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four and to keep to the correct political orientation. We must do everything — including providing appropriate material conditions — to ensure that our writers and artists can give full expression to their insight and talent. We maintain that leaders should exchange views with them as equals, and that those among them who are Party members should set an example through their own creations and unite with their non-Party colleagues so that all can advance together. The bureaucratic style of work must be dropped. There must be no more issuing of administrative orders regarding the creation and criticism of literature and art. To think that such a practice upholds Party leadership can only produce results opposite to those intended. It is essential to adhere to the ideological line of dialectical materialism, and to analyse both positive and negative experience in the development of our literature and art over the past 30 years. We must get rid of all stereotypes and conventions and study new situations and solve new problems in conformity with the characteristics of the new historical period China is in. The preposterous ways of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four undermined the Party’s leadership in literature and art and destroyed their vitality. In the production of literature and art, which involves complex mental labour, it is essential that writers and artists follow their own creative spirit. What subjects they should choose for their creative work and how they should deal with those subjects are questions that writers and artists themselves must examine and gradually resolve through practice. There should be no arbitrary meddling in this process.

Delegates and Comrades,

At the time of the founding of our People’s Republic, Comrade Mao Zedong pointed out that “an upsurge in economic construction is bound to be followed by an upsurge of construction in the cultural sphere”. After waging bitter struggles and overcoming many difficulties, we have smashed the Gang of Four and thus removed our biggest stumbling block. We can now say with full assurance that this upsurge will not take long to appear and that the conditions are daily ripening that will enable us genuinely to put into practice the Marxist policy of “letting a hundred flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend”. Thanks to the hard work of the masses of writers and artists, a new period of flourishing literature and art will unfold before us.

The present congress is the first gathering of writers and artists from all over the country in this period of our new Long March. You comrades have been invited to it on the strength of your already considerable successes. We are sure that after the congress you will produce more and better works of literature and art to offer to the motherland and the people.

I wish this congress complete success!